Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
March, 2007
Regional Report

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Well-prepared soil is the foundation to a successful gardening season of bountiful vegetable harvests and beautiful flowers.

I Love My Soil

Ahhh the smell of it! The wonderful feel of its crumbly particles sifting through my fingers. The soft dark earth beneath my knees as I kneel down to scoop up a handful of soil from my garden. There's just nothing like rich garden soil! I love the first breaking of the soil for a spring garden as much as the rewards of harvest. Those of you who have gardened for a few seasons know exactly what I am talking about.

Someone once said that of all man's achievements, of all he has invented, built, and organized into civilizations, we owe our very existence to a thin, six-inch layer of soil and the fact that it rains. Indeed, most forms of our food and much of what we wear and build our homes with is dependent on that layer of stuff most folks call dirt. In an indirect way, all of our food is dependent on it.

We gardeners know just how important soil is. So do farmers and ranchers. We are the stewards of our future in the way we care for our soil.

You can't grow a good garden without good soil and few of us start with good soil. Too sandy, too clayey, bad drainage, underlying surface -- rock you name it, we've got it. The great news is that we can turn what we have into good soil with some time and a lot of compost! I like to call it improving our "lot" in life.

We "grow" great soil in our garden by turning under plants and leaves between harvests, by adding compost and decomposed manures, and by growing cover crops to turn under. After a couple of weeks we will seed some lettuce and other greens in those areas.

Compost helps sand hold nutrients and helps clay form a crumbly, well-aerated structure. It brings a soil to life with microbes that feed plants and stimulate root growth. It gives soil that wonderful spring-fresh aroma. We are in our second year of soil building in our current residence and I am beginning to see the benefits. This spring's soil turning is easier and our garden plants are really thriving.

A soil test is a great tool for fine-tuning your soil. Your County Extension Office can help you get your soil tested. The results will help determine if a pH adjustment is needed and guide your future fertilizing. Our last soil test indicated that all our soil needed was a little nitrogen.

If you have not yet experienced the rewards of improving your lot in life, now is your chance. There is nothing you can do for your garden that will make as big of a positive impact as soil building. Your plants will show the results and your garden dollars will really stretch farther, too.

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